Joe Wenderoth



One is able to engage a room in one of two ways:
as a read surface,
or as the Yes-And-No Tunnel.
The Yes-And-No Tunnel is not really a tunnel.
It has no entrance and no exit.
It only gets wider in every direction.
Those born in The Yes-And-No Tunnel
(and there is nowhere else to be born)
are alive and dead at the same time.
This condition—contradiction—urges
them incessantly to learn
to read.
Every read surface is a brief dream-
of the Yes-And-No Tunnel.
Every act of reading
is the violence
that that dream
Meaning destroys space
with a little jingle.
Every call could be the one.


A Play In One Act
Act One:
Stage Directions
Interior: five folding chairs around a cheap folding table, which has a shadeless lamp (40 watt bulb) and some magazines on it. The folding chairs are barely illuminated by the lamp, and the stage beyond the chairs is completely dark. Gusts of air are apparent from the very start, and they pick up steadily. After thirty seconds, a rustling of the magazines on the table becomes apparent, and The Voice begins to speak. The Voice is disembodied, and is that of a confident, middle-aged, white, lower-middle-class American woman (preferably from Baltimore—Dundalk, specifically). She speaks with some degree of amusement, and some degree of bitterness. The Voice is amplified so that it is audible above the gusts of air, even as they increase.

The Voice: “Eat all the bacon and donuts you want.” (2 second pause) “How could the doctor stop you.” (4 second pause) “You’ve found that line—that gray area: slow, pleasant suicide….

The gusts of air escalate as The Voice speaks. Soon after The Voice has finished speaking, the gusts become so great that they knock over the chairs and the table and the bulb of the lamp bursts on the floor. When the bulb of the lamp bursts—which is to say, roughly thirty seconds after The Voice has finished speaking—the gusts suddenly come to a complete stop. The stage—indeed, the whole theater—is sunk in unblemished, soundless darkness. These conditions—silent darkness—are maintained for five minutes, and then a curtain falls (invisibly), the lights of the theater come up, and the play is over.
JOE WENDEROTH is from Baltimore. He has published five books: three books of poems, a book of essays, and a novel, Letters To Wendy’s. A new book of poems, If I Don’t Breathe How Do I Sleep, is forthcoming from Wave Books in 2014. He is Editor at Inscriptions Of The Seizure State, and Producer of its podcast, About Brett Favre (can be found at Internet Archive). His films are on you-tube. He is Professor of English at UC Davis, where he teaches in the graduate Creative Writing program.

Read more by Joe Wenderoth:

Video essay at TriQuarterly
Short fiction at the integral Guernica
An Asian girl recites a Joe Wenderoth poem on youtube.